Ever since legendary pop star Michael Jackson died in June of 2009, some patients at have had a heightened awareness and concern about the drug propofol, a general anesthetic administered intravenously to sedate patients for surgery or procedures such as colonoscopy.
But at the time of Jackon's death, it was widely reported that the singer was using propofol as a sleep aid and had overdosed from the potent drug, marketed as Diprivan, which is available only to medical professionals.
If you're scheduled for a medical procedure, don't worry — here's the truth about "Michael Jackson juice." Propofol was developed in 1989 for inducing general anesthesia. It quickly replaced sodium pentothal as the sole agent for that purpose. It has great advantages over pentothal because it works faster and you will feel much less "hangover." This translates to quicker wake-up time and less time in the recovery room. Propofol is a very pleasant anesthetic. In most cases, you are left with a much clearer mind leaving the hospital.
Thus, the use of propofol, which originally was intended only to induce general anesthesia, rapidly expanded as the go-to drug for short ambulatory procedures, requiring sedation (i.e. colonoscopy). It produces the best conditions for a physician to perform a procedure and delivers the best possible patient comfort during these procedures. However, propofol should never be used in an inappropriate setting or by those not skilled in its administration and its side effects.
Michael Jackson's use of the drug lead to a manslaughter charge which is still being contested in court. To prevent such catastrophes, the American Society of Anesthesiologists produced guidelines and recommendations in the late 1990s for propofol's administration and use.
In October, the Drug Enforcement Administration started the push to control propofol like any other narcotic — a move probably related to publicity regarding Jackson's death. But the goal is to prevent any abuse of this drug, as there have been reports of the increased abuse of propofol, especially by medical professionals who have access to it.
So, if you are scheduled for a colonoscopy or any other short ambulatory procedure and you are told you are getting propofol, don't panic. Relax in the knowledge that your anesthesia care provider is well-versed with the drug's benefits as well as potential side effects — and you are not in some Hollywood bedroom where your doctor puts you to sleep and ... just ... walks ... away.
John Fazio is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist currently in practice at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, where he is the Chief Nurse Anesthetist. For more information, contact him at email@example.com.